The record says Bangladesh swimmers do not have fond memories in the tournament when Nepal hosts it
The national swimmers were seen swimming from one end to another in the 10 lanes of the pool with three coaches shouting and instructing from both the sides at Syed Nazrul Islam National Swimming Complex in Mirpur Sunday morning.
Ever since the preparation began on July 15, almost all the 32 swimmers in the preliminary camp - 18 males and 14 females - has one thing in mind, that is, to win their first ever gold medal in the upcoming South Asian Games, scheduled to be held in Nepal from December 1-10.
Among the 32, only Mahfuza Khatun Shila has the record of winning gold in the Games’ previous edition in Shillong three years back and she was the only female swimmer from Bangladesh to bag gold in the Games’ 35-year history.
But Shila is yet to take full part in training due to illness.
The record says Bangladesh swimmers do not have fond memories in the tournament when Nepal hosts it.
Chief coach Abdul Hamid informed that the Bangladesh swimmers won golds in every edition since its inception, except in three – twice in Nepal in 1984 and 1999 and once in Dhaka in 2010.
Hamid, while talking to Dhaka Tribune after the training session, added that high altitude and cold temperature of Nepal often made it difficult for Bangladeshi swimmers.
He couldn’t say more whether they had a plan to visit Nepal a little bit earlier before the Games in order to adjust.
But camp commander Mahadiul Hasan told that they discussed about their poor record in Nepal, but nothing has been finalized yet.
Relying on new shoulders
The federation has been running a talent hunt training program for around two years now.
As many as 20 swimmers in the ongoing national camp came from this talent hunt project while the remaining 12 came from different service teams.
Most of them are aged below 20.
Two other coaches - Golam Mostafa and Mahbubur Rahman - nodded with Hamid, agreeing in unison that they have four or five zones of events where they can hope to get golds for Bangladesh, but all of them also reminded repeatedly that the time is still too early to predict.
“We have just started the training camp. There is still a long way to say who will be the contenders but we have four-five zones where we may have chances. As the other countries are also improving, we shall get clearer idea about our chances two or three months later,” said Hamid, who is also the joint-secretary of the swimming federation.
Mahfizur Rahman Sagor won seven bronzes in 2016 after which the 26-year old swimmer enjoyed two scholarships in Thailand for a total of 18 months.
The 2016 Rio Olympian swimmer said, “I shall try my best to divert my bronzes to golds but it depends on timing, condition and situations. My focus will be on 50m and 100m butterfly events.”
But Sagor faced a stiff challenge from newcomer Asif Reza in the 50m during the last national competition in March this year when Asif outraced Sagor to win gold with a new national record.
“Sagor’s timing was 23.92s when he won bronze in 50m freestyle in 2016. I clocked 23.85s in the last national event. I’ll have the time to improve it and give my best to win a gold in Nepal,” said 23-year old Asif, whose sister Khadiza Akter Bristy competed in the last Asiad 2018, and also featured in the current camp.
There will be hope on London-based Bangladesh-origin swimmer Junayna Ahmed, who won nine golds with eight new national records in the last event, and Jewel Ahmed, who bagged five golds, all with national records, and Ariful Islam, who is enjoying a training scholarship in France.
But none of them could reach their personal best in the World Swimming Championship in South Korea last month.
The swimmers from India and Sri Lanka will be ones against whom Bangladesh may face real battles in the pool, but there are more hurdles they have been going through.
There had been lack of international as well as domestic events as this year’s national championship was held after more than two years of gap.
The timing of the swimmers in training sessions is still being counted on hand-timing.
The electric timer is still left at the store room.
Mahadiul informed that the installment was supposed to be done by July but the conductor has yet to hand it over to the National Sports Council.
The federation sent a letter to NSC and Mahadiul is hopeful to get the set-up done before the national junior championship that is set to take stage from September 10-12.
The absence of having quality coach is another concern.
Hamid however, informed that the federation is trying to bring a Japanese coach by September.
Earlier, South Korean swimming coach Park Tae Gun left the job before the Asian Games 2018 in September after complaining of not having co-operation from the federation.